Virginia Life Science Industry Leaders Gather for Workforce Summit

The Virginia Life Science Workforce Summit was a statewide gathering of life science industry employers, higher education institutions, economic development authorities, HR professionals, and policymakers held this past week on June 21st. VABio hosted the event with the support of many prominent sponsors who, like the attendees, all want to see Virginia be a leader in translating education into successful careers that match the needs of their vibrant Life Sciences industry.

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The Summit began with the announcement of a new Cabinet position, the Chief Workforce Development Officer, within the Governor’s office. The new position will complete three primary tasks:

  1. Build workforce-driven partnerships that are driven by business,
  2. Develop new pathways for internships and experiential learning, strengthening K-12 to college pathways with hands-on skills, and
  3. Implement strong performance measurements to make evidence-based decisions moving forward.

Later in the morning, a roundtable of employers all agreed that experiential work experience during undergrad is now a requirement to get an interview. Also, employers are exploring new positions such as contract engineers, with specific time limits, to gain a better understanding of the hard and soft-skills of the job prospect.

A student panel talked through how an employer (and even academia) can institute a culture where students have “permission to fail” and that “failure is a lesson, or a pivot point” to further career growth and development. Also, the student panel talked through how it may be beneficial to flip undergrad curriculum where students take basic courses in the fourth year, freeing up the first two years to finish the hard science classes to get internships or work experience earlier on.

Overall, the Summit stressed the need for additional resources for experiential learning and internships to provide a smoother transition from academia to industry.


Christopher Girdwood

Prince William County Department of Economic Development



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